Missing Persons : An Homage to Perry Doberman
You’re in a chase scene with no one behind you.
You couldn’t have done a thing: no motive, no means, no opportunity.
But you’re cast against type this time.
You’re wearing a hat.
No matter which way you turn in the light, your shadow looks exactly the same. A man in a fedora, carrying a briefcase, running.
You call Missing Persons, but they put you on hold.
A Visit with Perry Hoberman I: Virtual Web Site
Few of “Perry Hoberman’s” admirers are aware that the artist (“host”) in fact inhabits a “virtual web site”. A visitor (“user”) of “Perry Hoberman’s” living quarters “accesses” this “site” by means of a “door”, which then “opens” onto the first of several “rooms”, each ingeniously and distinctively “personalized”. Ease of passage is ensured by the availability of a number of three-dimensional “doorknob” “icons”. The various “rooms” are “furnished” with concrete “archives” depicting different aspects of “Perry Hoberman’s” “functions” i.e. rest, elimination, communication, leisure, reproduction, et al. “Mail” can be received by the “site” by means of the “postal” system (“virtual e-mail”) and “links” are provided by the “paths” or “streets” and a remarkable “appropriation” of an existing “transit” “system” (IND, IRT, BMT). The mind of the “user” in effect becomes a “rider” or “virus” within the “Trojan horse” shell of his/her own physically transportable “corpus”.
You call missing persons, but you can’t get them interested in the case: How you can you be missing if you’re making the call?
You’re the stunt man, wired to die. Under your businessman’s suit you’re wearing a vest full of explosive cartridges filled with fake blood, but you can’t get anyone to shoot at you.
The crew is packing their cameras. You wander off the soundstage, onto another set, trailing cable. It’s a musical. No guns. No hope of dying here. Someone hands you a microphone, and words begin to scroll on a monitor. You sing. Afterwards you wander off the lot, still unexploded, still undead.
Eventually you marry, procreate, and go to your genuine death still wearing the vest, your simulated death having eluded you.
At your funeral, a camera crew arrives. As the casket is lowered into the ground, extras with machine guns riddle your casket with blanks. Your squibs go off, and as earth is shoveled over the pine box the blood seeps out through the bullet holes to stain the earth.
All the scenes end up on the cutting room floor.
You fall in with a parade: The March of Precocious Objects. They’re household appliances that have struck for better wages, retirement benefits, enforced breaktimes.
There’s a faction carrying signs demanding companionship: no appliance should have to live alone, unique, lonely. Each should have a counterpart.
You lose yourself in this group.
A Visit with Perry Hoberman II: Answering Machine
Perry Hoberman and his girlfriend sit together in her apartment. She in a chair, and he on the couch, each reading. They’re in two separate worlds for nearly an hour when suddenly she looks over at him and says, “Perry?”
He turns to her, smiling. “Yes?”
He widens his eyes slightly, to show that she has his full attention.
Instead of speaking she gapes at him, her mouth slightly open. Then she laughs, lightly, ironically.
“What is it?” he said. “Something the matter?”
“To tell the truth, Perry, I was hoping to get your machine.”
The taxicab crashed, but the meter’s still running.
You duck into a doorway and find yourself at a party. They’re celebrating New Hour’s Minute. They elect you secretary of the present tense. You’re expected to make a speech.
You try to remember what the coach told you in the locker room. Today is the last the day of the end of your life. He who hesitates, quits smoking.
Then you see the words begin to scroll up on the monitor, and someone hands you a microphone. You begin to sing.
On the airplane the stewardess announces that they will be showing a ‘short subject’. You take a headset.
The screen above your seat shows a picture of the person in the seat ahead of yours, who is also wearing a headset and watching a video of the person in the seat ahead of his.
The headseat is playing the thoughts of the person ahead of you.
He’s thinking: airplanes stay in the air because people believe they can. But the person ahead of him doesn’t believe.
As this thought moves through the cabin the plane starts to dip.
You call missing persons and they’re all there, on the other end of the line. The gabble of voices is horrible.
You hang up. They don’t notice.
A Visit with Perry Hoberman III: Robot Head In Mourning
The most important of the many robots living on the grounds of the Hoberman estate is surely the Robot Head In Mourning. The Robot Head is the size of a boulder, five and and half feet from chin to the top of its skull. It lies on its side in the weeds and rushes just beyond the tended parts of Hoberman’s lawn, mouth gaping, the corroded gears that operate its jaw long since frozen into inactivity, its jewel eyes still glowing with the fire that rages inside. The grass near the head is singed from the heat. The head resembles the skull of the Terminator from James Cameron’s 1984 film, the lumpen head-like artifacts of the American painter Philip Guston, and the severed head of the robot Ultron from the Marvel Comic “The Avengers”. Hoberman’s other robots bring the Robot Head the broken machines and other mass-produced objects that fuel the radioactive fire that burns eternally inside its brain-case, loading them in through the its ear. According to robot theology, the Head is mourning the souls of the dead objects, even as it consumes their bodies.
At dawn a visitor may catch the smaller robots kneeling in a circle around the Robot Head In Mourning, beeping and blinking in the glow of its bitter unquenchable fire.
They send you taped instructions: ninety minutes of silence. You accidentally erase it.
You call Missing Persons and get your own answering machine. You wait to leave a message, but the beep never comes.
The beep never comes.
The beep never comes.
* * *
Perry Hoberman catalogue, 1999